House minority wants DICT fund use probed

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    THE minority at the House, which includes members of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc, filed a resolution asking the committee on good government and public accountability to investigate the alleged misuse of confidential funds of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) by Secretary Gregorio Honasan.

    “The allocation of very huge confidential funds for DICT is just part of the unprecedented increase of the confidential and intelligence fund of the different agencies under the present administration,” the lawmakers led by minority leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. said in House Resolution No. 702.

    The resolution was filed after the resignation of Eliseo Rio, undersecretary for operations, who opposed the P300-million budget for intelligence and confidential funds that Honasan approved. Rio said he resigned because conducting intelligence activities is not part of the DICT’s mandate.

    There is still no word from the Palace on whether President Duterte has accepted Rio’s resignation. Rio on Monday said he filed the resignation on January 31 and was awaiting word from the President.

    Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, a leader of the Makabayan bloc, pushed for the passage of House Bill 6184 or “An Act Creating The Congressional Oversight Committee on the National Budget.”

    “We have received reports that these anomalous funds were used for surveillance. The question is who were put under surveillance? Were the opposition and other critics been put under surveillance. Is this part of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to monitor and suppress the opposition?” he said.

    “Is that even part of the mandate of the DICT? This should definitely have to be probed and Congress’ oversight powers should be exercised to investigate this,” Zarate added.

    He stressed that Rio, himself, has pointed to a lack of transparency in the disbursement of hundreds of millions of pesos in confidential funds used for surveillance.

    A COA audit observation memorandum dated January 20 said the DICT advanced P300 million in cash for confidential expenses on three occasions — P100 million each on November 22, and December 2 and 17 last year.

    It said these were made in the name of Honasan, who also requested the funds which were to be used for “confidential expenses in connection with cybersecurity activities.”